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Michael Olunga, Odada among key players left out of Harambee Stars squad for World Cup Qualifiers

Monday, May 20th, 2024 15:53 | By
Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga in action. PHOTO/Harambee Stars.
Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga in action. PHOTO/Harambee Stars.

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga and midfielder Richard Odada have been dropped from the Harambee Stars provisional squad for the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers.

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat in a statement on Monday, May 20, 2024, named his provisional squad that will face Burundi and the Ivory Coast.

The coach is expected to name his final squad before departing for Malawi on June 2, 2024, where Harambee Stars will host the two World Cup qualifying matches.

Harambee Stars will face Burundi on June 7, 2024, before facing the reigning Africa Cup of Nations winners, Ivory Coast, on June 11, 2024.

Olunga in good form

However, Olunga was left out despite being in good form. Olunga scored three goals about a month ago, helping Kenya win the Malawi Four-Nations tournament.

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga.
Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga. PHOTO/(@Harambee__Stars)/X

His club Al Duhail has not issued an update on his fitness. It, therefore, remains unclear why he was left out of the provisional squad.

Daniel Francis Anyembe who plays as a right-back for Danish Superliga club Viborg FF was also left out. He is currently not injured.

Richard Odada who plays as a midfielder for Danish 1st Division side AaB, on loan from the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, was also left out despite not being injured.

Richard Odada in Aab Kit. PHOTO/ AaB
Richard Odada in Aab Kit. PHOTO/ AaB

Engin Firat criticized

A section of Kenyan football enthusiasts have questioned Firat's motive, with some demanding answers on why key players were left out.

"If indeed Anyembe, Olunga, and Odada are not injured, which is highly likely, then Engin Firat has to be asked all the hard questions. Anyembe is arguably our best defender and rarely puts a foot wrong.

"Odada has tried to fill the gap left by Wanyama, and looking at the midfielders called up, I don't see who will slot into that position. Let me not talk about Teddy, who has been clubless since 2023. Olunga scored a hat trick last time out.

"How do you drop him ahead of such crucial qualifiers? Marcelo, Okumu, and Ayunga are already out with injuries. You don't weaken the team further by axing key players and handing untested players call ups," Kevin Teya, a Kenyan sports journalist posed.

Other key players missing in Firat's squad are Eric 'Marcelo' Ouma, Joseph Okumu, and Jonah Ayunga who are all out with injuries.

Below is the Harambee Stars provisional squad.

Full provisional squad

Goalkeepers

Patrick Matasi (Kenya Police), Byrne Odhiambo (Bandari), Boniphas Munyasa (Muranga Seal), Ian Otieno (Zesco, Zambia)

Defenders

Johnstone Omurwa (Estrela, Portugal), Alphonse Omija (Dhofar-Oman), Amos Nondi (Ararat, Armenia), Brian Okoth (Kenya Police), Abud Omar (Kenya Police), Tobias Knost (SV Verl, Germany)

Midfielders

John Ochieng (Zanaco, Zambia), Eric Johanna (UTA, Romania), Adam Wilson (Bradford City, England), Anthony Akumu (Unattached), Kenneth Muguna (Kenya Police), Kaycie Odhiambo (AFC Leopards), Chrispine Erambo (Tusker), Rooney Onyango (Gor Mahia), Ayub Timbe (Sabail, Azeberijan), Duke Abuya (IHEFU, Tanzania), Bruce Kamau (Perth Glory, Australia)

Forwards

John Avire (El Sekka El Hadid SC, Egypt), Austine Odhiambo (Gor Mahia), Benson Omala (Gor Mahia), Elvis Rupia (IHEFU, Tanzania).

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